By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I've noticed how often I have intense emotional reactions to both praise and criticisms at work. When I am complimented, I do pretty much whatever the person flattering me asks. When I am criticized, I end up getting upset for days about whether I am doing a good job. Is there a way to not be so influenced by whether people like what I am doing or not?
A. Feedback typically falls into three categories: flattery, insults and the actual truth. The only feedback that will increase your effectiveness is the truth.
If you want to find out how easily manipulated you are at work, ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how much are you hurt or delighted by praise or insults. If you are highly affected by either realize, then all that anyone at work has to do to manipulate you is insult or flatter your ego.
When a coworker tells you the truth, you will notice specifics, details and neutral clarity in the feedback. If you are told you need to double-check your math on a budget, this is feedback, not criticism. If you are told you are generally sloppy, this is an insult - and the worst part is that it is vague. Equally unspecific is flattery such as "You are brilliant."
You may think it is perfectly normal to prefer nice comments to uncomfortable truths, but being abnormal regarding feedback is a huge career asset. Stretch yourself when anyone at work respects you enough to give you specific true feedback, even if it stings at first.
Another tricky aspect of getting true feedback is you will need to teach others to give it to you. If someone says you are irresponsible, arrogant or incompetent, don't just get mad. Ask that person to give you an example of what he or she is talking about. If they can't give you an example, you can discount the vague comment.
Equally useful is, when a person says you are marvelous, amazing or wonderful, if instead of getting blissed out you ask that person to give you an example. If he or she cannot give the details then that person is hoping you will be so happy you will do whatever he or she wants.
When you listen to what people say about you, realize that they always have an agenda. If their agenda is to make you putty in their hands, making you mad or happy can make you stop thinking about what is best for you. I want you to be clever enough to focus on your long-term well-being rather than your short-term reaction of being offended or delighted.
The reason insults and compliments work so well to manipulate normal people is that most of us carry around a fair amount of insecurity. If people imply we are bad and incompetent, we end up trying to prove them wrong. If people imply we are liked and competent, we get so pleased we don't question their motives.
The most extraordinary skill one can cultivate is an attitude of curiosity regarding feedback. I know it's challenging to listen when your ego isn't pleased with what you are hearing. Try this: Imagine that people around you are free executive coaches that potentially can teach you invaluable skills. The only price is to set your ego aside, ask for specifics, and be curious about what they are saying.
The Last Word(s)
Q. Why am I so stuck in my current career when I know what I want? Is there a way to break through my lack of action?
A. Yes. Ask yourself this: What you are more afraid of, immediate failure or never having tried?
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
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This column was printed in the November 1, 2015 - November 14, 2015 edition